Whether you’re planning your thousandth date or trying to pick a spot to meet a stranger from an app who listed their occupation as three fire emojis, we can all agree that not all restaurants are ideal for romance. Many places are too loud for someone to hear about that one time you saw a bear in North Carolina. You might be seated uncomfortably close to a party of 24 celebrating several quinceañeras. Or worse, things are too quiet and you have to listen to each other slurp pasta for 45 minutes. The good news is you won’t have to worry about any of that at these 18 spots. And even if that stranger you swiped right on ends up being 15 years older than they claimed, at least you’ll get some great food out of it.
Katana is one of those sushi restaurants where the plates float through the dining room on a little stream and it’s a good intro to couple teamwork if you two aren’t quite assembling Ikea furniture yet. Different color plates cost different amounts, starting at just $1.50 each, and if you see something you like, you simply just reach out and grab it. There are always a ton of people on dates here because the counter seating is most comfortable for parties of two, and since this place doesn’t take reservations and makes surprisingly good sushi, there’s usually a wait. Grab a ticket and pay attention because they’ll skip you if you don’t respond.
The period of a relationship when your person still seems to think you’re actually cool can be stressful. It’s only a matter of time before you’re outed as the nervous weirdo you really are, but 27 is a good place to postpone the disillusion for as long as possible. This Mid-Beach spot is laid out like a house and the dining room feels more like a living room, which makes for a relaxed meal where you don’t have to worry if you’re using the wrong knife. The small plates - like the harissa brussels sprouts and rotating crudo you should always order - are good for sharing and light enough to keep you from yawning before the check comes. Order one of the more ambitious cocktails and pretend like you didn’t have to google the word “orgeat” while your date was in the bathroom.
Jazz and very good pasta should guarantee you’ll at least get a polite “Thanks for dinner!” text the next morning. But regardless, you’ll be glad you came here - if only to add this to your roster of places to bring future dates, who will appreciate this wonderful/random little Italian spot in the side of a Downtown office building enough to not ghost you. Come Thursday through Saturday for the live jazz, and order the fazzoletti di formaggio e pera, which you will, unfortunately, have to end up sharing after your date tastes this great pear and ricotta pasta.
Ariete is that rare place where you can go for a special occasion meal for an important anniversary or a casual bite with an online date you’re 60% sure you’ll like. For the former, sit in the dining room and order a cheese plate, grilled oysters, and the venison. For the online date who showed up 37 minutes late, sit at the bar, get some cocktails, and see how they react when you take down a Chug burger in less than a minute.
The name might sound like what your friend Greg asked you to call him after he tried ayahuasca once, but thankfully Jaguar Sun is much cooler than that. The small space is modern and sleek and feels like the lobby of an apartment building that caters to 25-year-old creatives who desperately want to tell you about their start-up idea, which happens to be where Jaguar Sun is located. The cocktails here are great, and the mostly-pasta menu is small enough to save you from having to “um...” your way through deciding on something to split, with things like rigatoni, lasagna, and bucatini. The servings are also big enough to share - just get an appetizer and you should be fine splitting one of the pastas.
Miami can’t agree on a lot: speed limits, politics, or the intentions of Derek Jeter to name a few. But Mandolin might just be the one thing the entire city can get behind. It’s beautiful, consistent, and delicious, all of which make it a very safe bet for a date - even if you don’t know (or have never met) the person you’re bringing here. Make a reservation just to be safe, and absolutely sit outside. Split a grilled sea bass and avoid the heavier Greek plates that’ll have you smelling like a hunk of feta cheese and garlic that just ran a marathon.
Boia De is pretty much too small for anything but parties of two, so you don’t have to worry about sticking out if you’re on a date. Regardless if it’s a first or a 50th, Boia De is a great option and just a really cool little restaurant. The dining room is dotted with little pink exclamation points and you will demand to know what material the awesome bar is made of. The food - a pretty creative Italian menu - is also incredibly good. Chat up your server about a bottle of wine and split a couple of scoops of their custom ice cream flavors for dessert.
Fooq’s serves primarily Persian food with some Italian and French dishes thrown in. That’s practically a turducken of romance and is probably how this Downtown restaurant manages to remain so charming in a neighborhood that is to love and affection what rubber is to electricity. The Persian dishes are what we stick to (the jeweled rice is awesome) and the somewhat intimidating wine selection is broken into helpful taste descriptions on the menu, so even if you feel overwhelmed choosing a bottle, you’ll look like you know what you’re doing. If it’s a nice night, ask to sit in the narrow outdoor alley. It has a lot of greenery, hanging lights, and tables for two, which is so very French/Italian/Persian of them.
For those dates when you don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard, but obviously still need to try just a little hard, go to Pinch. This Upper East Side spot is casual enough where your date won’t be scared that you’re about to propose, but the excellent whole calamar and spicy brussels sprouts will show them that you know where to find very good food, which might lead to marriage eventually - especially if you take them back for lunch or brunch when Pinch serves their fantastic burger.
Not only does Macchialina make some of the best pasta in Miami, but it’s also just a really romantic place to eat a meal: cozy and dim with brick walls and a noise level that won’t require you to scream “spaghetti pomodoro” at your server three times in a row. If you can, come here on Thursday for $10 pasta night. On a normal night, the cheapest pasta is $21, so the place fills up quick. Try to show up early or grab a reservation.
Sometimes - especially if this relationship is comfortably in the sweatpants stage - you want a date where you can eat enough sugar to knock out a baby elephant. Maybe it’s Sunday and you’re both tired of vegetables or maybe you two realized you literally can’t remember the last time you had a milkshake. Either way, Vicky’s House is the best dessert date in town. Once inside, sit at the kitchen counter, which looks like an ’80s kitchen with vintage appliances, aesthetically offensive wallpaper, and an original Nintendo in the corner. They serve those kinds of stoner fantasy milkshakes with donuts dangling from the straw and Twinkies jutting out of the whipped cream which will guarantee your night ends in sweatpants - just like you planned.
When you really want to show off to your date, but they’ve already seen every one of your “riffs” on frozen pizza, take them to NIU Kitchen. If they’ve never been, they’ll be a little shocked to discover this miniature dining room hiding in Downtown Miami, and that shock will return when the excellent food hits the table. The anchovies with crushed potato chips and rabbit confit will wipe away any notions that you’re merely a person who only eats things that come in red boxes with skateboarding cartoon animals. The dinner will end, your date will exhale one final satisfied breath, and will never underestimate you again. Or at least for like a week.
Mignonette serves the best oysters in Miami, plus a lot more very good seafood that’s easy to share. This place is good enough to show you’re trying, but not fancy enough to make it seem like you spent a month planning. The space has floor to ceiling windows that face the sunset and a bar with a huge marquee behind it that advertises the day’s oyster specials. Start with a dozen of those and repeat as needed.
The good news is that any date at Lucali will come with the best pizza in Miami. The possible bad news is that they don’t take reservations so you might have to wait a very long time for a table, which isn’t actually that bad as long as you don’t mind spending time with this person and aren’t prone to hanger. There’s a cocktail bar next door called Bay Club that serves smaller versions of Lucali pies, but resist the urge to compromise. Lucali is going to be a lot more comfortable for a date and your patience will pay off.
If Lucali seems like too much of a mission, but you still want pizza, head to Ironside. The space is very cute, with mismatched wooden furniture and an open kitchen where you can watch the pizzas get fed into the oven. But unless it’s unbearably hot, sit outside. There’s some nice vegetation and good people watching. The menu includes everything from a few salads to lasagna, but the Neapolitan pizzas are what you should focus on. The best part about Ironside: it’s BYOB and charges no corking fee, which is rare and will make the tab a lot easier to pick up in case you’re feeling generous (or too awkward to ask if your date wants to split it).
Most special occasion places try to make you feel important by addressing you as Mr. or Ms. and folding your napkin every time you get up from the table. But Stubborn Seed’s food accomplishes that without the snobbishness. You’ll actually be able to pronounce the ingredients on the menu, but each dish will still hit your table looking super fancy - and tasting as good as it looks. Come for an anniversary, birthday, or because you both finally taught your dog its first trick. The restaurant is stylish but subdued, especially compared to the giant pink diner and bottle-service megaclub down the street. The menu changes quite a bit, but the seafood here is outstanding and the snickerdoodle cookies for dessert are even more satisfying than teaching your new corgi how to twerk.